Making President Trump’s Bed: A Housekeeper Without Papers

At the president’s New Jersey golf course, an undocumented immigrant has worked as a maid since 2013. She said she never imagined she “would see such important people close up.”

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.

Because of the “outstanding” support she has provided during Mr. Trump’s visits, Ms. Morales in July was given a certificate from the White House Communications Agency inscribed with her name.

Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.

Ms. Morales’s journey from cultivating corn in rural Guatemala to fluffing pillows at an exclusive golf resort took her from the southwest border, where she said she crossed illegally in 1999, to the horse country of New Jersey, where she was hired at the Trump property in 2013 with documents she said were phony.

She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally.

Sandra Diaz, 46, a native of Costa Rica who is now a legal resident of the United States, said she, too, was undocumented when she worked at Bedminster between 2010 and 2013. The two women said they worked for years as part of a group of housekeeping, maintenance and landscaping employees at the golf club that included a number of undocumented workers, though they could not say precisely how many. There is no evidence that Mr. Trump or Trump Organization executives knew of their immigration status. But at least two supervisors at the club were aware of it, the women said, and took steps to help workers evade detection and keep their jobs.

“There are many people without papers,” said Ms. Diaz, who said she witnessed several people being hired whom she knew to be undocumented.

Mr. Trump has made border security and the fight to protect jobs for Americans a cornerstone of his presidency, from the border wall he has pledged to build to the workplace raids and payroll audits that his administration has carried out.

During the presidential campaign, when the Trump International Hotel opened for business in Washington, Mr. Trump boasted that he had used an electronic verification system, E-Verify, to ensure that only those legally entitled to work were hired.

“We didn’t have one illegal immigrant on the job,” Mr. Trump said then.

[Read more immigration coverage from Miriam Jordan]

But throughout his campaign and his administration, Ms. Morales, 45, has been reporting for work at Mr. Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, where she is still on the payroll. An employee of the golf course drives her and a group of others to work every day, she says, because it is known that they cannot legally obtain driver’s licenses.

A diminutive woman with only two years of education who came to the United States speaking no English, Ms. Morales has had an unusual window into one of the president’s favorite retreats: She has cleaned the president’s villa while he watched television nearby; she stood on the sidelines when potential cabinet members were brought in for interviews and when the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, arrived to confer with the president.

“I never imagined, as an immigrant from the countryside in Guatemala, that I would see such important people close up,” she said.

But Ms. Morales said she has been hurt by Mr. Trump’s public comments since he became president, including equating Latin American immigrants with violent criminals. It was that, she said, along with abusive comments from a supervisor at work about her intelligence and immigration status, that made her feel that she could no longer keep silent.

“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she said. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”

Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz approached The New York Times through their New Jersey lawyer, Anibal Romero, who is representing them on immigration matters. Ms. Morales said that she understood she could be fired or deported as a result of coming forward, though she has applied for protection under the asylum laws. She is also exploring a lawsuit claiming workplace abuse and discrimination.

In separate, hourslong interviews in Spanish, Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz provided detailed accounts of their work at the club and their interactions with management, including Mr. Trump. Both women described the president as demanding but kind, sometimes offering hefty tips.

While they were often unclear on precise dates of when events occurred, they appeared to recollect key events and conversations with precision.

Ms. Morales has had dealings with Mr. Trump that go back years, and her husband has confirmed that she would on occasion come home jubilant because the club owner had paid her a compliment, or bestowed on her a $50 or sometimes a $100 tip.

To ascertain that she was in fact an employee of the club, The Times reviewed Ms. Morales’s pay stubs and W-2 forms, which list the golf course as her employer. She also made available her Individual Taxpayer Identification, a nine-digit number that is issued by the Internal Revenue Service to foreigners to enable them to file taxes without being permanent residents of the United States. Having a number does not confer eligibility to work.

The Times also examined the documents Ms. Morales presented as proof that she was entitled to work — a permanent resident card, or green card, and a Social Security card, both of which she said she purchased from someone in New Jersey who produced counterfeit documents for immigrants.

The Times ran Ms. Morales’s purported Social Security number through several public records databases and none produced a match, which is often an indication that the number is not valid. The number on the back of the green card that Ms. Morales has on file at the golf course does not correspond to the format of numbers used on most legitimate resident cards. For example, it includes initials that do not match those of any immigration service centers that issue the cards.

Ms. Diaz produced similar documents, though since she has gained legal residence she has been issued a genuine Social Security card and green card.

The Trump Organization, which owns the golf course, did not comment specifically on Ms. Morales or Ms. Diaz. “We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices,” Amanda Miller, the company’s senior vice president for marketing and corporate communications, said in a statement. “If an employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately.”

The White House declined to comment.

Mr. Trump opened the golf club in 2004 and has spent all or part of about 70 days at Bedminster since taking office.CreditChristopher Gregory for The New York Times


Hotels See Panic Buttons as a #MeToo Solution for Workers. Guest Bans? Not So Fast.

The hotel industry is betting that a simple device can help solve the complex problem of guests sexually assaulting and harassing workers.

It’s known as a panic button, a small gadget that housekeepers can use to swiftly call for help. The technology takes different forms, including GPS devices that track employees as they walk through the building, buttons that emit an audible alarm and smartphone apps.

After a yearlong cascade of stories about the sexual harassment of hotel workers, questions about how to address the problem remain largely unanswered. The most popular solution, one that hotel executives and labor activists can agree on, is small enough to fit in a pocket.

Through company policy or legislation pushed by local officials, panic buttons have become increasingly widespread at hotels across the country. But the hotel industry has fiercely resisted measures that would punish the accused, saying that they would threaten guests’ due process rights.

Juana Melara, a housekeeper in Southern California, believes a panic button could have gotten her out of a frightening situation several years ago when she was working in Cerritos, Calif.

Ms. Melara said she was cleaning a bathtub in a hotel room when she turned to see a guest staring at her. She asked him to leave the room and went on her break. When she returned to her housekeeping cart, she said, the man was walking in the hallway toward her with his penis pulled through his pants.

“I was so scared, I said, ‘Oh my God, what do I do?’” Ms. Melara said in an interview. “The rooms were empty — there were a lot of checkouts on Sunday. There was not anyone who could hear me.”

Ms. Melara, 53, said she escaped into a nearby room and locked the door. She called her supervisor and the front desk but said that no one came to the room for about 20 minutes.

When she moved to Long Beach, Calif., years later, Ms. Melara continued to work as a housekeeper and began organizing with Unite Here, a union that represents hotel workers that was advocating a law mandating panic buttons at hotels. Statewide legislation failed earlier this year, but on Tuesday, separate ballot measures in Long Beach and Oakland requiring panic buttons at hotels of a certain size passed easily.

Over the past year, Seattle has become the main battleground for the industry and the hospitality union’s dueling interests. Two years ago, voters approved a ballot measure mandating panic buttons and instituting a system that would place guests accused of sexual misconduct on a blacklist, which would make hotel workers aware of their presence but not bar them.

Under the ordinance, if a hotel worker makes a sworn statement accusing a guest of sexual misconduct or if evidence supports the accusation, the guest would be barred from returning to that hotel for three years. If the worker makes the accusation without signing an affidavit, the guest’s name will be added to the list for five years. If the worker agrees, the hotel should report the allegations to the police.

In late 2016, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the main trade group representing major hotel chains, and other local trade organizations sued the city over the ordinance. The groups argued that requiring hotel management to bar and blacklist guests would violate guests’ due-process rights.

“That told us loud and clear that the industry was more concerned about their guests’ comfort level than protecting their employees from sexual harassment,” said Erik Van Rossum, the president of Unite Here’s chapter in the Northwest, which covers Seattle and Portland, Ore.

The hotel and lodging association counters that workers’ safety is a top priority. But Katherine Lugar, the association’s president, said it objected to the ordinance partly because “we don’t believe it’s prudent to put a Seattle employee in the position of acting as a surrogate for law enforcement.”

In June 2017, a judge ruled in favor of the city, but the trade groups appealed and were back in court arguing their case this month.

While the hotel trade group fights these rules, it has embraced panic buttons as worth a significant financial investment. Chicago officials estimated that a hotel security system including panic buttons with tracking capabilities would cost about $100 per room. The lower-tech option that emits an audible alarm is about $25 per device, a Hyatt spokeswoman said.

This fall, 17 hotel brands — including major chains like Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott — said they would put the safety devices in place at all their hotels across the country by 2020.

Industry groups were not always enthusiastic backers of the devices. Ms. Lugar said the trade association previously had concerns that the hotel union was using worker safety as a “fig leaf for labor’s laundry list of other wants and desires.”

Panic buttons were under consideration, and in some places, in operation, before the #MeToo movement, Ms. Lugar said. But the cultural reckoning has clearly played into the industry’s calculations.

For many years, business leaders rarely prioritized protecting their workers, said Tina Tchen, a lawyer who served as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff. Management did only as much as the law required when it came to sexual harassment policies and training, said Ms. Tchen, who advised hotel chains this year on the panic button initiative.

“One of the failings of the past is that we looked at anti-sexual-harassment policies and trainings as one-size-fits-all,” she said. “That’s why people tuned out.”

Before the hotel industry embraced panic buttons, cities including Chicago and Miami Beach, Fla., mandated them through ordinances passed by their city councils. Collective bargaining agreements have also required the devices at union hotels.

New York was the first city to require panic buttons on a broad scale when the provision was included in a contract struck in 2012, the year after a hotel housekeeper accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the chief of the International Monetary Fund and a French politician, of sexually assaulting her. Washington, D.C., followed suit with its own agreement.

But enacting legislation that includes measures to punish guests has proved difficult in the shadow of Seattle’s legal battle. In California and Chicago, the bills initially were supposed to be modeled on Seattle’s ordinance, including the provisions on barring and blacklisting certain guests. Later, those provisions were abandoned.

Laws in cities including Seattle and Chicago require hotels to maintain sexual harassment policies with procedures to follow if an employee reports harassment by a guest, such as allowing them to temporarily work at a location separate from the alleged harasser.

Some hotels are encountering practical challenges as they put the panic button technology in place. Four months after Chicago mandated panic buttons, some small hotels are struggling to pay for the technology, said Alderman Michelle Harris. Larger hotels, she noted, had faced challenges with establishing reliable Wi-Fi connections in every corner of their buildings.

In California, Al Muratsuchi, an Assembly member who spearheaded the legislation there, said he had not given up on a statewide law. Although he wants to find a way to punish guests accused of sexual misconduct, he said the panic buttons are the first step.

Original Article:

Cadavers in the ballroom: Doctors practice their craft in America’s favorite hotels

Part 6: Big names in hospitality, from Disney to Hilton and Hyatt, have a little-known sideline: They rent space to physicians who train on cadavers and body parts. There is scant regulation, and some public-health specialists warn of biosafety risks.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida – Just outside the operating theater, the organizers of a medical conference wore Minnie Mouse ears.

Inside, as doctors practiced on three cadavers, blood from one of the human specimens seeped through a layer of wrapping.

“They leak,” a lab technician said of the bodies.

The sessions, held last month and attended by a Reuters reporter, weren’t at a hospital or medical school. They were part of a so-called cadaver lab – and the setting was a Florida resort. It was one of scores of such events over the past six years that have been held at a hotel or its convention center.

In this case, doctors practiced nerve root blocks and other procedures on cadavers in one of the Grand Harbor ballroom’s salons at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts convention center. Online, Disney refers to its ballrooms as “regal and resplendent.” They’re often used for wedding receptions.

Disney did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Medical training in the United States is usually done in secure lab facilities equipped specifically for such seminars. But not always. Reuters identified at least 90 cadaver labs that have taken place since 2012 at hotels or their convention centers in dozens of cities, from New York to San Diego. Some of the biggest names in the industry, from Hilton and Hyatt to Sheraton and Radisson, have hosted the events.

The cadavers used in these seminars are often procured through body brokers, organizations that acquire bodies donated to science and then sell or rent the parts for use in medical research and training.

Body brokers generally refer to themselves as “non-transplant tissue banks.” They are distinct, however, from the organ-and-tissue transplant industry, which the U.S. government closely regulates. No federal law covers the sale or lease of cadavers or body parts used in research or education, such as those operated on at the Disney center. That industry is virtually unregulated.

Similarly, there is little, if any, regulation governing where seminars featuring cadavers and body parts can be held, although the federal government does have rules on how labs handle medical waste and bloodborne pathogens.

The World Health Organization says that, “in general, dead bodies pose no greater risk of infection than the person did while they were alive.”

To ensure safety, event organizers say they screen the cadavers for infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis.

Diseases such as tuberculosis, however, cannot always be identified through screenings. And some medical professionals worry that some cadavers could spread antibiotic-resistant staph infections or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare degenerative brain condition.

When the deceased are cut open, there’s an increased risk of a disease being transmitted to others, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

“I will be the first to acknowledge there have been no big outbreaks or situations that have occurred yet from a dead body,” Osterholm said. “But I am absolutely convinced it’s just a matter of time.”

There has been at least one instance of a body broker who allegedly failed to report positive results for hepatitis B in a cadaver sent to a medical conference. In 2011, broker Arthur Rathburn provided the head and neck of a diseased cadaver to a conference held at a Hyatt hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, authorities say. Although no one who attended the conference reported getting sick, Rathburn faces trial in January on charges of defrauding health care workers and lying to federal agents. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Hyatt chain has hosted at least 10 seminars that included cadavers since the 2011 incident, Reuters determined.

After Reuters asked about the cadaver labs, Hyatt spokeswoman Stephanie Lerdall said the hotel chain is now reviewing the guidance it provides hotels around “medical trainings of this kind.” She said Hyatt expects anyone using hotel facilities to “operate in a manner keeping with applicable health and safety protocols.”

Cadaver labs are often part of medical association meetings for practitioners in fields ranging from spinal surgery to rhinoplasty. Or they are hosted by medical device companies who want doctors to try new products. The seminars are usually staffed by companies that run mobile labs. These companies often provide the donated bodies or body parts used by the doctors – such as torsos, hands, and legs – either from the company’s own donor program or from other non-transplant tissue banks.

Surgeons say no manikin or computer simulation can replicate the experience of practicing on a human specimen. And mobile lab providers say seminars at hotels and convention centers fill a gap. They allow many more practitioners access to training than could be accommodated at permanent lab facilities such as hospitals.

But regulations are few. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has no guidelines for seminars involving human body parts, a spokesman said. The Occupational Safety and Health Agency didn’t respond to questions about whether or how OSHA regulates such seminars.

The New York State Health Department said it does not issue permits for hotel cadaver labs. Its rules require rooms where cadavers and body parts are used for education or research to have biosafety features, such as a working sink. Even so, the department has never inspected any hotels that have held cadaver labs, spokesman Ben Rosen said.

That means safety precautions are largely up to hotels and lab providers.

The Hilton hotel chain has held at least 11 cadaver labs since 2012 in cities including New York, Chicago and San Diego. A Hilton policy posted online requires a seminar organizer to show it has the approval of OSHA and the local health department before holding an event involving cadavers.

A Hilton spokesman said the hotel chain requires those who rent its facilities for such seminars to prove they have insurance and to “follow all protocols recommended by federal, state or local health authorities. These requirements are uniquely tailored to the location and type of event,” the spokesman said, “and wherever possible, we specify required documentation.”

But few authorities grant permits for such events. Reuters surveyed six states where cadaver seminars have been regularly held. New York was the only one in which a state or local health department said it had any regulations covering such labs. Some were oblivious to the seminars.

“We have never heard of this,” said Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman with the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “Are you sure it is true?”

It is. Reuters found at least four conferences held in San Francisco hotels since 2012 that advertised the use of cadavers.


Anatomy laboratories at universities have sanitation features, such as floors that can easily be cleaned. That helps to minimize the spread of bodily fluids and tissues while researchers work on a specimen. Most hotel ballrooms or conference centers are carpeted and lack sinks and other washing facilities, however.

That means the biosafety protocols at hotels sometimes fall well short of what university researchers require in their labs.

In October, doctors practiced on human torsos in a ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson in New Jersey. A Reuters reporter witnessed one participant holding out his arm and asking event attendants whether there was soap or a sanitary wipe in the room so he could clean himself. Told there weren’t, he left the ballroom, arm still outstretched.

And at the Disney lab last month, coffee and tea were available near one cadaver station. After a Reuters reporter asked if this were allowed, the refreshments were removed from the room.

Andrew Payer, a professor of anatomy at the University of Central Florida, said sinks are required in the school’s anatomy labs. Such labs also typically prohibit food and drink. The rationale: to reduce the risk of pathogens being transmitted through hand-to-mouth contact.

To guard against fluid or flesh falling on hotel carpets, seminar organizers typically lay plastic on the floors. Depending upon the procedures the doctors are practicing, other steps might be taken, hotel seminar organizers say. “When they cut away the knee, there are bone pieces flying. So you cover up the walls,” said James McElroy, president of Bioskills Solutions, which provides equipment and support for training on cadavers.

At the conference at the Hyatt in Jersey City, plastic and other floor covering lay only in the areas just beneath the gurneys that held body parts. Elsewhere in the room, carpet was exposed.

New Jersey health officials don’t regulate these workshops. In neighboring New York, a health department spokesman said putting down plastic would not be acceptable because the material could puncture.

“Do shoes become contaminated on a carpet where a day later there’s going to be a wedding dance and you’ve got one-year-olds crawling on the floor?” asked Osterholm, the infectious diseases specialist. “All you need is one situation to go badly.”

Ronn Wade, director of the Maryland State Anatomy Board, said plastic floor coverings wouldn’t protect against airborne pathogens either.

Hotels and seminar providers said only lab technicians handle cleanup, and medical waste is disposed of through a biohazard company. But mistakes can be made.

“We had a situation where there was a bin left that had blood-stained linens and plastic that was left in a meeting room and was not picked up” after a rhinoplasty lab, said Vince Fattore, director of events management at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. Another Sheraton employee cordoned off the area around the bin, which also contained syringes, Fattore recalled. He said the hotel called the conference organizer to have the sealed bin collected.

Despite that episode, Fattore said the hotel has two more cadaver conferences on the schedule – one in January and another in March. “We’re here to serve the customer, first and foremost,” he said.

“I’m not trying to sugarcoat it by any means. I know that there’s definitely danger there and there could be cross-contamination in some cases,” Fattore said. “That’s why we take it very seriously.”

A Sheraton Hotels & Resorts vice president, Indy Adenaw, said the chain allows each hotel “to accept or decline business on a case-by-case basis as they see fit.”


Holding cadaver labs in hotels and their convention centers also raises concerns about protecting the dignity of the dead.

“I find it altogether unacceptable that these courses could be held in a hotel setting,” said Sabine Hildebrandt, an anatomist with a research interest in ethics at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. She said she fears that the experience might desensitize even veteran doctors to the need to treat bodies, living or dead, with dignity.

A 2016 gynecology symposium in the hotel convention center at Orlando’s Rosen Shingle Creek, for example, advertised “Operate with the Stars!” There, “three lucky attendees” were selected to go on stage to be mentored through a procedure on a cadaver.

A spokeswoman for the the group that held the conference said that “thousands of surgeons can watch and learn from this demonstration.”

A media representative for the Rosen Shingle Creek said she could not comment.

The location of the seminars poses another challenge: the possibility that hotel patrons – adults and children – could unexpectedly be exposed to disturbing scenes.

Hotels surveyed by Reuters say they have not fielded complaints from guests, and seminar organizers say that access to the rooms where cadavers are used is restricted.

The levels of security vary.

At the Disney resort in November, a reporter covering the conference was able to watch two seminar sessions before being told she was not allowed in the room.

And in June, the ballroom doors of the 5-star Wynn Las Vegas Hotel were left open after the start of an orthopedic-surgery lab at a medical convention. A reporter saw uncovered human torsos from the hall.

Wynn Resorts said the organizers had rented the entire convention space for the lab. “There was no expectation that anyone other than convention attendees would be in the convention area,” Michael Weaver, chief marketing officer, said in a statement. He said Wynn policies “prohibit the general public from entering any meeting room being used for medical training events.”

Lab providers and hotel staff have different ways of protecting guests from accidental encounters with gruesome spectacles. Most said they used the hotel’s loading dock and freight elevators to avoid transporting specimens through areas frequented by the public. But not all are so careful.

Paul Kraetsch said he was working at the front desk of the Radisson Hotel Fresno Conference Center in California when it hosted a cadaver lab in 2015. The seminar organizers who carried in the cadavers “just brought them up through the main elevator, which I found pretty shocking,” Kraetsch said.

The Radisson chain said it has no specific policy on medical events. But the safety of guests and employees is the “highest priority,” said Ben Gardeen, a spokesman for the company.

“We would also expect our hotels to take the proper preventive measures to ensure these events don’t create uncomfortable situations for other guests in the hotel,” he said.

Original Source:

For Hotel Workers, Weinstein Allegations Put a Spotlight on Harassment

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — At a high-walled hotel here with celebrity customers, a housekeeper was turning down the sheets for a V.I.P. guest one evening when she said the guest offered her money for a massage. She refused and told a supervisor. Still, the next day, she said she returned to clean the same suite, where she found an open briefcase with cash inside.

Last year, another housekeeper called the hotel office from a guest’s darkened room to say she felt uncomfortable. A second housekeeper was sent to the room as backup, and when she arrived, the guest grabbed her by the shoulders and groped her breasts, according to a police report and a person familiar with the case.

The hotel, the Peninsula Beverly Hills, has attracted attention beyond its usual circle of well-heeled patrons since several actresses, including Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow, accused Harvey Weinstein of using the cover of work meetings there to sexually harass them.

For employees of the Peninsula and other hotels, those allegations point to the mistreatment women endure alone in suites all the time. There is no evidence Mr. Weinstein abused hotel workers. But employees say hotels too often put discretion and deference to powerful customers before the well-being of women who work there, a claim that is catching hold in an industry under mounting pressure to protect workers.

Housekeepers in Chicago recently seized on the Weinstein allegations to celebrate passage of a City Council bill that will require hotels to provide them with panic buttons so they can summon help. Seattle has a similar measure, and New York City’s biggest hotel operators agreed in 2012 to provide unionized workers with panic buttons after a housekeeper there said the French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her; the charges against him were dismissed.

Under a California law, hotels can be held responsible for employees being sexually harassed by guests or trespassers whom the hotels know to be abusive, a state appeals court ruled in October.

Still, security measures remain out of reach for many employees, and in Los Angeles, workers said hotels continued to indulge guests who misbehaved.

“They treat workers like their property,” the housekeeper who was propositioned for a massage said of the Peninsula.

Set behind vine-covered walls and a thick curtain of trees on South Santa Monica Boulevard, the Peninsula keeps records of guests’ robe sizes and preferred brands of toilet wipes, former employees said. It embroiders linens and stuffed animals with their initials.

Few guests drew as much attention from the hotel — or were as feared by its staff — as Mr. Weinstein, former employees said. He is under investigation by law enforcement agencies in three cities.

The New York Times interviewed eight current or former Peninsula employees and a former associate of Mr. Weinstein’s who traveled with him, and also reviewed several lawsuits by men and women who worked at the Peninsula accusing co-workers of sexual misconduct. The employees spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed nondisclosure agreements.

They said they often felt helpless next to Hollywood titans whom the hotel went to extreme lengths to please.

Offer Nissenbaum, the Peninsula’s managing director, said in a statement, “We have employed thousands of people over 25 years and while we are not perfect, we do our best to treat our employees fairly and ensure their well-being. Please know that we learn from our mistakes and are always trying to improve.”

Mr. Nissenbaum said that the hotel will ask guests to leave if it finds they sexually harassed staff members and that it reports any illegal behavior it discovers to the police. The hotel, he said, also investigates and disciplines staff members accused of sexual harassment.

“We look after the smallest details to make our guests’ experience memorable,” he said. But, he said, that “does not mean we undertake any illegal activity or condone illegal behavior.”

Hotels — workplaces for some, and leisurely retreats for others — have long made for difficult working environments, especially for women whose job it is to enter rooms. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission task force last year said housekeepers, like janitors on a night shift and agricultural workers in the fields, are “particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault” because they are often alone.

In the case of the Peninsula housekeeper who reported a groping, the investigation remains open. The police report, obtained through a public records request, says the suspect is unknown.

In another incident reported to the police in June, a Peninsula employee said a co-worker held her in a hug and tried to kiss her lips while they were both working, police records say.

Mr. Nissenbaum said of the employees, “Both these incidents were resolved to their satisfaction.”

Some Peninsula workers contacted for this story said they were unaware of Mr. Weinstein’s behavior. Others declined to answer questions about him. But employees said his infamous temper followed him from his home in Manhattan to the hotel’s gilded hallways.

On one occasion, he was talking on his cellphone in the lobby when a new staffer, regrouping after a stressful check-in, let out a sigh, said an employee who saw the situation unfold. Mr. Weinstein hung up, stomped over and berated the staffer for showing exasperation with guests nearby, the employee said. Tears streamed down the staffer’s face while Mr. Weinstein walked away.

Holly Baird, a spokeswoman for Mr. Weinstein, declined to comment on that account. She said of the drumbeat of allegations against him, “With respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual.”

At the Peninsula, a former front desk attendant said a supervisor sometimes sneaked up behind women and brushed their hair if she thought they did not meet the hotel’s grooming standards. The attendant said she worried that hotel security was unresponsive when she raised concerns about guests trying to touch her or trap her in a hallway.

Holly Baird, a spokeswoman for Mr. Weinstein, declined to comment on that account. She said of the drumbeat of allegations against him, “With respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual.”

At the Peninsula, a former front desk attendant said a supervisor sometimes sneaked up behind women and brushed their hair if she thought they did not meet the hotel’s grooming standards. The attendant said she worried that hotel security was unresponsive when she raised concerns about guests trying to touch her or trap her in a hallway.

“They feel like they can hug you and touch you and grab you and squeeze you and tell you how good they think your legs look in that uniform,” she said, describing guests at the Peninsula. “You laugh, you smile and you stand on your back foot and never let them get between you and a door.”

A second former front desk attendant said a male supervisor had grabbed her and a colleague’s buttocks dozens of times behind the desk. She said she never reported the episodes because she did not trust management to take her complaints seriously.

An employee handbook in use several years ago listed hundreds of instructions for how to act when guests call (“no fourth ring”), pass in the hallway (“staff will move to the side and pause”) and arrive (“no guest will ever have to touch the front door”). It also warns employees against telling guests “no,” suggesting they find “considerate alternatives.” Mr. Nissenbaum said that was in no way license for guests to act inappropriately.

Mr. Nissenbaum provided a hotel sexual harassment policy that he said had been part of the employee handbook since at least 2003, and said the hotel complies with California law on sexual harassment.

Former female employees said they gave new hires tips on how to protect themselves, like keeping a piece of furniture between themselves and guests known to grab women.

Some employees likened the Peninsula to a prison, saying jealously that those who left had gotten out “after time served at the Pen.”

For stars, though, it was a refuge.

Actresses holed up there after plastic surgery, ordering room service for days, former employees said. Men arrived with their wives on the weekend and different women during the week. The Peninsula instantly threw out paparazzi.

A bartender said in a lawsuit that after a co-worker in 2012 forced his hand onto her genitals and buttocks, the hotel’s director of security chided her for going to the police. The hotel settled the lawsuit in February for an undisclosed sum, a court document indicates.

Two female cooks at the hotel said in a 2008 lawsuit that supervisors blocked them from leaving the kitchen, pushed them against counters and rubbed their genitals against the women’s buttocks. The parties reached a confidential settlement agreement, said Bradley C. Gage, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Mr. Nissenbaum said the hotel was legally prohibited from commenting on employees and related legal matters.

Susan Minato, a co-president of Unite Here Local 11 in Los Angeles, said nonunion housekeepers told her they avoid reporting harassment for fear of being fired. Housekeepers at the Peninsula are not unionized. In a bid to secure protections for all workers, with or without a union, Unite Here pressed for legislation in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, that would have required hotels to provide workers with panic buttons, but the City Council rejected the measure.

A union survey of hotel workers in Chicago found that 58 percent of them had been sexually harassed by a guest.

Union organizers said immigrant workers were especially vulnerable. And the same power imbalance that gives guests too much control over female workers can also leave workers vulnerable to their managers, said Karen Kent, the president of Unite Here Local 1 in Chicago.

Mr. Weinstein frequently turned a fourth-floor Peninsula suite into his headquarters-away-from-home. He put up a team of his staff there, too, a former associate of his said. His stays would likely have brought in thousands of dollars; rooms at the Peninsula cost several hundred dollars a night, while suites can go for more than $2,000 a night.

That money bought personalized service. Employees met to discuss the next day’s arrivals. Regular guests could store things for their next stay. For Mr. Weinstein, hotel workers furnished the room of one of his assistants with stationery embossed with the assistant’s name, the former associate said.

“Every time you stay there, what you order, what you eat — there’s a record of it,” said a former staff member at the Peninsula who took part in pre-arrival meetings.

The hotel is a picture of opulence. On a recent visit, the horseshoe driveway was lined with luxury cars. Hanging from the trees were orbs covered in tiny lights. Inside, attendants scurried around offering drinks.

Studio bosses, agents and actors often traveled to Mr. Weinstein’s suite.

On a late-summer day in 1998, Lola Glaudini, then 26, arrived at the Peninsula for what she expected to be a meeting about her acting career with Mr. Weinstein. After she asked for him at the front desk, an assistant whisked her upstairs and left her in a suite transformed from a business venue to a bacchanal. A room service cart was heaped with champagne, lobster and shrimp. From the bedroom he told her to pour herself a drink — she did not — and he walked out in hardly any clothing, Ms. Glaudini said.

They had met a few days earlier, at a premiere party for the movie “Rounders.” Ms. Glaudini, anxious to fill gaps in her memory, found a red carpet video on YouTube recently that recorded the introduction. She approached The Times with her story in October shortly after it published an investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Weinstein.

In his suite, Mr. Weinstein asked her to play along in a fantasy, tried coaxing her into bed and, when she declined his advances, told her on the balcony about actresses he claimed to have slept with, including Ms. Paltrow, and suggested she do the same for a role.

“All I just kept wanting to do was get the meeting on track,” Ms. Glaudini said. “I wanted the meeting.”

Ms. Baird, Mr. Weinstein’s spokeswoman, said he “has never stated he slept with any of them,” referring to the actresses. Ms. Paltrow has said she rebuffed him.

Afterward, Ms. Glaudini said she steadied herself with a glass of wine at the hotel bar, scanning women who walked in for someone she feared might become his next victim. She said she told her father and her then-boyfriend, now husband. In separate interviews, they both confirmed her account and recalled Ms. Glaudini being shaken and disappointed.

A few days later, Mr. Weinstein sent her a card urging her to contact his development team if she came up with a project, Ms. Glaudini said. He told her he would be happy to join the meeting.

Original story:

The Hotel Room Hacker

ON A WARM Phoenix night five years ago, Aaron Cashatt walked down the red-carpeted hall of the second floor of a Marriott hotel, trying to move casually despite the adrenaline and methamphetamine surging through his bloodstream. Six feet tall with blond, close-cropped hair, he wore a black sports coat and baseball cap and kept his head down so the hat’s brim hid his face from surveillance cameras.

When he found a quiet stretch of hallway, Cashatt chose a door and knocked. No answer. He pulled out a sunglasses case from his pocket, flipped it open, and removed a small tangle of wires connected to a circuit board and a nine-volt battery. On one end of that loosely assembled gadget was a cord attached to a plug. He looked at the keycard lock on the door in front of him, a metallic box that offered a vertical slot ready to accept a guest’s keycard like a piece of bread into a toaster.

Cashatt didn’t have a keycard. Instead, he reached underneath the lock on the door until his finger found a small, circular port and inserted the plug of his device. Then he held a frayed wire coming off the board to one end of the battery, completing an electric circuit. Instantly, the lock whirred as its bolt retracted, and a green light flashed above the door handle.

For a moment, Cashatt stared in shock, almost disbelief. “It was like the heavens had opened,” he’d say of the moment years later.

Cashatt pushed open the unlocked door, walked into the room, and closed the door behind him. Even in his meth-addled state, he was so taken aback by his success in hacking his way in that he laid down on the room’s king-size bed for perhaps a full minute, his heart racing.

Then he sat upright and started thinking about what he could steal.

Bolted to the dresser was an expensive-looking TV, but he didn’t have the tools to remove it. So on an impulse, he grabbed a pile of towels and pillows. Tucking them under his arm, he quickly walked out the door, down the stairwell, out a side exit to the red Mitsubishi Galant he’d parked outside, and drove away.

That spontaneous laundry heist was, in fact, the modest beginning of an epic crime spree. Over the next year, Cashatt exploited an obscure software bug in one ultra-common model of hotel keycard lock to break into hotel after hotel in what would become an unprecedented, all-he-could-eat buffet of serial digital thievery. He’d escalate from stealing TVs to targeting guests’ luggage and walking out with all the possessions he could find. His intrusions would stretch from Arizona to Ohio to Tennessee as he worked to stay ahead of law enforcement. And he’d amass, by some estimates, close to half a million dollars’ worth of stolen goods.

Eventually, Cashatt’s lock-hacking spree triggered Operation Hotel Ca$h, a multi-agency police operation aimed at tracking him down. According to one document shared among cops in June 2013, officials estimated that Cashatt was responsible for 78 hotel burglaries. (Cashatt himself would later hint to me that the number was actually well more than a hundred.)

But flash back to the late summer of 2012, when Cashatt’s hotel break-ins were just getting started, and the cops were mystified. Hotels around central Arizona were reporting robberies, one after another. But there were none of the usual signs of forced entry, like broken windows or smashed doorjambs. At first the hotels suspected their own staff. But what kind of maid steals flatscreen televisions from multiple rooms? Or entire suitcases full of guests’ possessions?

“Everything’s gone. No prints. No forced entry,” recalls Tyler Watkins, a detective for the Tempe, Arizona, police department who tracked those first cases. “It was like a ghost had slipped in and slipped out.”

UNLIKE ARIZONA’S COPS, anyone paying attention to the cybersecurity world that summer would have known the answer to the mystery of the hotel ghost thief. Just weeks earlier, a 24-year-old security researcher named Cody Brocious had discovered and published information about a security vulnerability he’d found in keycard locks sold by the lock firm Onity. Brocious promised that the bug could unlock 10 million hotel rooms around the United States and the world.

The flaw was obscure but simple: Each of the Onity locks had a port on its underside into which hotel staff could insert a device the company called a portable programmer. The device could read which keys had recently opened which doors or set which doors could be opened with which master keys. And since portable programmers also functioned as master keys themselves, they were carefully guarded by hotel owners.

Brocious, a round, long-haired, and patchily bearded hacker prodigy, had been hired by a small startup to reverse engineer the Onity locks and create a competing system. The company never got off the ground. But Brocious found something unexpected. The unique cryptographic key that triggered the “unlock” command on any particular Onity lock was stored not on the hotel’s portable programmer but in the lock itself—the equivalent of millions of keys hidden under millions of welcome mats in hotels around the globe.

With just $50 in hardware, including an Arduino board, some resistors, a battery, and a DC power plug, Brocious could build his own portable programmer, insert it into the port of an Onity lock, automatically retrieve the digital key from its internal memory, and trigger the door to unlock, all in a fraction of a second. “I plug it in, power it up, and the lock opens,” Brocious told me with wide-eyed enthusiasm when we first spoke that summer. To prove his claims, Brocious came to the Forbes magazine office, where I worked at the time, and showed me an Onity lock he’d bought from eBay. He inserted the plug of his homemade device, its wires squeezed inside a black plastic box, into the port on the bottom of his test lock. It whirred and a green light flashed as the lock’s bolt obediently retracted.

A couple of weeks later, Brocious and I spent a day touring New York City to test his findings in the wild. We tried his Onity-cracking gadget in three hotels, ranging from midtown’s glamorous Waldorf Astoria to the less glamorous Holiday Inn in Gowanus, Brooklyn. (To avoid any actual felonies, Forbes paid for the rooms.) The technique worked on only one of the three targets, opening a door high in the atrium of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. Brocious’ technique still needed some fine-tuning. But one out of three was enough: I published a story, revealing his discovery for the first time and warning of a potentially serious security flaw in one of the world’s most common locks.

Brocious wasn’t done yet, though. A week later, he presented his findings at the Black Hat hacker conference in Las Vegas, speaking to a packed room at Caesar’s Palace. And he went one step further, publishing the code for his Arduino unlocking device on his website so that anyone could build a hotel hacking machine.

The hacker community has a long tradition of presentations like Brocious’ at hacker conferences like Black Hat and Defcon. Despite the dangers of publicly revealing security flaws that could potentially lead to criminal hacking, espionage, or other consequences, the logic goes that informing the public is paramount: better for noble hackers to shine the light of publicity on dangerous security problems and force corporations to fix their critical software bugs than allow truly malicious hackers to exploit them in the darkness.


There’s a window in my shower — and other hotel design flaws

When Marc Burdiss stepped into the shower at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, he was shocked by the clear view of the bedroom through a glass window.

“Weird,” he thought to himself.

Burdiss, an emergency-preparedness consultant based in Flagstaff, Ariz., then let out a sigh of relief. When he made the reservations, he had thought of bringing his teenage kids. Giving them privacy would have required a “MacGyver-like workaround,” using duct tape and towels, he says. Burdiss had also thought of sharing the room with another couple. That wouldn’t have worked, either — for obvious reasons.

The Rio is hardly alone. Hotel design misfires are common, and they’re a great post-vacation-season conversation starter. (“You’ll never believe what I found in my hotel room.”) I recently checked into a hotel in Albuquerque that had just opened, and noticed that my 10-year-old daughter refused to use the bathroom.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

“They can see me in the shower,” she said.

Sure enough, although parts of the glass between the shower and bedroom were frosted, you could look through the clear areas and see everything. Her brothers and I had to promise to leave the hotel room to persuade her to take a shower.

While many of the design failures are concentrated in the bathroom — including fixtures that are difficult to operate, inadequate counter space and limited privacy — they happen everywhere. The reasons for these mishaps vary, but the solutions are all the same.

“Good design is essential,” says Greg Keffer, a partner at Rockwell Group, an architecture and design firm. “Every layer of the design, from large-scale architectural gestures to the artwork, furniture and finishes, supports the hotel’s larger narrative, giving the hotel depth and meaning well beyond just a beautiful space.”

It doesn’t always work out that way, though. Several guest surveys have underscored the importance of thoughtful room design. One of the latest, conducted by Qualtrics, a research firm based in Provo, Utah, found that half of all hotel guests were upset by one design flaw — thin walls. Slightly more than 1 in 10 guests said their stay was so bad that they were “driven to tears.” Other pet peeves include insufficient outlets and bad lighting, both being key design elements.

This isn’t an abstract discussion. I checked into a full-service hotel in Reno, Nev., this summer and found a bathtub next to my bed. I’m serious. Why anyone would want a bathtub next to a bed is really beyond me.

For an explanation, I turned to Kristin Soo Hoo, a spokeswoman for Caesars Entertainment, which owns the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. She says that when the Rio was built in 1990, the original design team at Marnell Corrao Associates wanted to emphasize that it was the first all-suite hotel in Las Vegas with a variety of larger suites, which are appealing to couples.

“This design feature was added to the rooms to accentuate the romantic atmosphere of the resort, catering to the many couples and newlyweds on their honeymoon who enjoyed staying there at the time,” she says. That would explain the bathtub in my room, which, unlike the showers in Albuquerque, I had some trouble keeping my kids out of.

“Hotel design is the most critical element of success or failure,” says Tanya Spaulding, a principal at Shea Design, a design company in Minneapolis. Many designers try so hard to create unique “wow factor” designs that they forget the basics of functionality, she notes.

“For example, very cool sinks with absolutely nowhere to put your toiletries,” she says. “Or horrible bathroom lighting either way too cold, blue and bright, or so dim that seeing your nose is a challenge.”

Bathrooms aren’t the only place where hotel designers disconnect from their customers. Power outlets are also a big concern.

“I don’t like hidden outlets,” says photographer Gary Arndt, whose work keeps him constantly on the road. “Outlets should be on the top of the desk, not near the floor. In some places, there are no outlets available anywhere and I have to unplug the TV or lamps to plug anything in.”

The best explanation I’ve heard for this is that most hotels just haven’t caught up with the needs of 21st-century travelers. Indeed, the hotel I just checked out of, an elegant golf resort on Oregon’s coast, has the setup Arndt described. The outlets are hidden behind a sofa. In fairness, there’s a lamp with a few power outlets next to the bed, but something tells me they’re not intended for my laptop.

Sometimes, hotels just don’t think things through, guests say.

“You want to hear stupid?” asks Shaun Eli, a comedian from Scarsdale, N.Y. “I was at a hotel in Gaithersburg, Maryland, recently where they happened to put me in a handicap-equipped room. It was on the second floor.”

Sure the hotel had elevators, but if there were a fire in the hotel, someone in a wheelchair would have trouble making it down a flight of stairs. The property complied with the letter of federal accessibility laws, if not the spirit.

If you’ve stayed in a resort with a design flaw, you might be wondering whether there’s any way to avoid doing so again. It turns out there is.

Sticking with a hotel chain is one way to ensure that you won’t have a two-way mirror in your bathroom. I’m not making that up, by the way. Another Caesar’s resort in Las Vegas, the Cromwell, has two-way mirrors in its bathrooms. The resort is quite proud of what Soo Hoo calls an “edgy design feature that allows the guest inside the shower to become visible through the mirror by adjusting the lights.” Hotel chains, like fast food restaurants, have standard room designs with no surprises.

An additional way to prevent a design mishap is to research the property. For example, a quick online search would reveal the shower windows at the Rio and allow you to consider whether that’s a design feature you want — or not.

Original Article Link

I Worked at a Beverly Hills Hotel and Witnessed Sickening Behavior (Guest Column)

A former PR director of The Peninsula Beverly Hills reveals the protocol of handling top executives including Harvey Weinstein, who was a frequent guest: “There’s a reason bellmen were tipped better than anyone.”

In 1997, Ashley Judd joined Harvey Weinstein at The Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for a breakfast meeting, which the concierge informed her was to take place in the movie mogul’s room. In the suite, the shocked actress fought off his sexual advances and, as she said in an Oct. 26 interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, “made a deal” to have sex with him after an Oscar win in order to escape. “Who was I to tell?” Judd told Diane Sawyer. “Was I going to tell the concierge who sent me up to the room?” The hotel — in a statement released to THR by parent company Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Limited — states that, yes, the concierge would have been obliged to act: “Hotel guests are entitled to privacy when staying with us, unless a complaint or allegation is made to our staff, in which case … we will not hesitate to ask a guest to leave if evidence is found that he or she has sexually harassed our staff members.” However, in an interview, a former PR director for the hotel talks of a natural complicity to protect and keep VIP guests:

People have asked me, “Did you know?” I knew he was a bully. If his room service order was delayed, he would flip over the tray. Mr. Weinstein was known for screaming and for walking into the restaurant and demanding to know why his table wasn’t ready, even if he had not made a reservation or canceled his reservation. He was high maintenance, but most top executives are. That behavior was common. But not so much that you would turn away the business. I don’t know that anyone would ever have turned that business away.

Hotels are about generating revenue. If your guest, Mr. Weinstein, were coming in from New York, spending $980 per night for eight nights and taking meetings to include food and beverage service and room service, that’s a nice piece of business. You find out his favorite wine or beverage, and you cater to that — not to his behavior but to the revenue he produces. Mr. Weinstein was probably there at least one time a month, in addition to pre- and post-Academy Awards for a significant time. The Miramax business mattered to the hotel. He and his brother, Bob, would stay in large suites, and the company would bring in other executives as well.

Guests would come to the concierge at the front desk and ask to see Harvey Weinstein, and we would call and send them up. That’s how business was conducted. CAA was across the street at the time, and he held many meetings there; so did many entertainment industry insiders.

A woman would come to see Mr. Weinstein, and it would be confirmed if that is what he wanted, and she was then sent to his suite. I don’t think there were women who hesitated that I knew of, but it was likely that they expected the meeting to take place in the foyer of a suite or in the office of a villa.

It wasn’t at all unusual to see a high-level entertainment executive stay at the hotel for two weeks, and during that time, special guests who were clearly not the wife would join him. After entertaining those “guests” for several days, they would disappear, and halfway through the week, the wife, nanny and kids joined from New York. Everyone would know. It’s an intimate, small hotel; it wasn’t lost on anyone what was really going on, but it was never discussed. The wife could be 45 years old and the other guest maybe 20 years old. What happened at the hotel stayed at the hotel, and there’s a reason bellmen were tipped better than anyone else in the entire hotel.

The higher up they are in an organization, the more you see it. It was so disappointing. As a 30-something professional, you wind up saying to yourself, “Him, too?” “Him, too?” “Him, too?” It causes you to lose faith in humanity a bit. On the flip side, it was fascinating to watch these men place the level of confidence they did in doormen. The doormen always knew when the girlfriend was leaving and the wife was coming, and that meant they helped take out any of the girlfriend’s belongings and sweep the room just to be safe. It’s a fascinating, well-oiled machine. That’s one of the reasons these guys kept coming back: Their secrets were kept.

Hotels are really sexy. The more luxurious, expensive and elite, the more attractive they become — and they’re open 24 hours a day. Hotels are a safe and discreet place where sex happens for people outside of their partnerships. Confidentiality is deeply entrenched, etched in the DNA of the employees. What you see is never to be repeated, and that goes for everyone from the housekeeper to the GM. If an employee had witnessed someone getting hurt or any harassment, they would raise the issue to a supervisor first. The police may not necessarily be the first phone call.

I don’t know that I feel responsible for what Mr. Weinstein did at The Peninsula, but I’m really mad, saddened and sickened that this really bad behavior went on in a place where we, as employees, worked so hard to create something so special. To know that these women walked through that lobby to go upstairs to see that pig, and that’s what happened? I’m really resentful that so much happened there. Gwyneth Paltrow’s story in particular — no 22-year-old young lady should ever have to endure that.


And an in-dining employee at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel recalls a traumatizing run-in with the producer:

Before occupying his Peninsula lair, Weinstein stayed at The Beverly Hills Hotel, where his association was reportedly ended due to staff and guests’ complaints including women entering and leaving his room. (The hotel declined to comment.) Several former employees of the Montage Beverly Hills, the hotel that Weinstein utilized starting in 2008 when it opened (before returning to the Peninsula), told tales of intimidation. A kitchen worker says, “Whenever he was staying at Montage, the in-room dining staff dreaded it. The housekeeping ladies did, too — I heard that he was filthy and they hated cleaning up a room he had just vacated,” while room-service worker describes how “the staff was strictly prohibited to greet him, speak to him, or even look at him,” upon the producer’s arrival. “The description on the PMA [computerized communication] system of how he wanted his arrival to be approaching the porte cochere were made in capital letters with several exclamation marks. If something wasn’t to his liking, he would raise hell completely.” The employee recounts a traumatizing encounter in 2010.

One day he placed a call to in-room dining. I knew it was him because it came from the presidential suite. When I picked up the phone, he started to bark orders like a mad man. He demanded sushi. Our sushi bar wasn’t open yet, but since I knew he was a big VIP, I wanted to make it happen. So I asked to place him on hold to find out if I could get one of the chefs to prepare the sushi. He stayed quiet for a second, then was like, “ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS? DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE PLACE ME ON FUCKING HOLD, YOU STUPID …” It was like that. I was in such shock. So I said, “OK, I’ll just make it happen.”

I’ve never been verbally assaulted before. I had to take 10 minutes and cried, really cried. I brought it to the attention of my management and they were like, “Sorry, but you know how he is.” Everyone was complicit because of who he was, the most powerful man in Hollywood.

This is how it works in luxury. I’ve worked in hospitality for 10 years, nine of those years in very luxurious hotels. There’s a certain complicity between the management and the people that frequent it. Harassment happens especially in high-end hospitality because when they’re paying thousands of dollars to rent a room, we’re basically in their homes. They feel like they can get away with anything. It’s a playground for them, and they can get away with being disgusting.

It can get a little scary for women servers. They get offered money for sex. There’s a ton of stories from girls who work in high-end hospitality. I’ve seen it happen, it has happened to me. Management knows but they don’t really do much to protect us. If I bring it to their attention, “Oh, don’t interact with him again. We’ll send someone else.” But as far as confronting those people, no, they don’t, because they’re afraid of getting sued. We walked on shells when we knew he was on property. It was a very toxic environment when he was visiting.

If I would have complained, I know no one would taken me seriously or taken my word over their word because of the power these people have. And [Weinstein] never tipped, not at all. (Laughs.) It was like serving an ogre, it really was.

Original Article Link

Tipping May Be the Norm, but Not for Hotel Housekeepers

The tip doesn’t have to be big — $1 to $5, says the American Hotel and Lodging Association. But fewer than a third of hotel guests leave any money for the housekeepers.

The hotel association publishes a gratuity guide on its website that offers suggestions for tipping everyone from valet attendants to bellhops.

But why are housekeepers often forgotten? A common explanation is that they are out of sight and, therefore, out of mind — that travelers are likely to tip only employees they directly interact with. But another cause may be a simple lack of awareness.

“As a general rule, people just don’t know they’re supposed to tip,” said Shane C. Blum, an associate professor of hospitality and retail management at Texas Tech University. The setting, he said, compounds the problem. “Obviously, when you’re with a group of people, like at a restaurant, there’s social pressure to tip. In a hotel room, you’re usually by yourself and there’s not that social pressure.”

But even when guests are nudged to leave tips for the housekeepers, it doesn’t always work.

In 2014, two longtime housekeepers at the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot recalled, guests were regularly leaving cash tips when they checked out of their rooms, a result of the hotel chain taking part in “The Envelope Please,” an initiative started by the nonprofit group A Woman’s Nation to make it easier for customers to show appreciation to housekeepers. Envelopes were placed in 160,000 Marriott-managed hotel rooms in the United States and Canada meant to be filled with notes and tips for cleaners.

Within a few weeks, though, the envelopes vanished. “We heard that some guests felt the hotel was demanding tips for us,” Blanca Guerrero, a housekeeper at the Santa Monica Marriott, said through a translator.

Tipping norms, or the lack of them, may be especially unfair to housekeepers, who arguably do more for guests than park their cars or push the cart containing their dinners. Angela Lemus, a housekeeper at the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill who makes $19.91 per hour, said through a translator that in addition to scrubbing tubs and taking out trash, she sometimes has to clean blood or other medical waste from rooms. Ms. Guerrero and another housekeeper at the Santa Monica Marriott, Aurelia Gonzalez, who make $15.66 an hour, said their responsibilities include cleaning not just the inside of rooms but also the balconies attached to them.

Most housekeeping workers are women, a disproportionate number of them minorities and immigrants, according to Unite Here!, a labor union that represents thousands of hotel housekeepers in North America. Ms. Gonzalez was born in Mexico, and Ms. Guerrero in El Salvador. Though their wages are above the median hourly wage of $11.37 for hotel housekeepers reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016, the profession’s earnings are less than the pay for housekeepers in other industries, like hospitals ($12.74 per the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Pay rates vary widely by region. Wage Watch, a company that tracks wage and salary information for the lodging and gambling industries, found that a housekeeper in a New York City hotel can expect to make an average of $29.41 an hour, while one in Charlotte, N.C., may earn an average of $10 an hour.

Nationally, housekeepers’ wages are comparable to desk clerks’, whose average hourly rate the Bureau of Labor Statistics tallies at $11.28. But desk clerk jobs don’t require the flipping of heavy mattresses or exposure to cleaning chemicals that can lead to respiratory and other health problems. Ms. Lemus, for example, developed an allergy to the latex gloves she was required to wear while cleaning.

“It went on for years, and it got so bad my hands started to bleed,” she said. “I couldn’t let people see my hands.”

Yet housekeepers say that, without the gentle nudge of initiatives like “The Envelope Please,” only about 30 percent of guests leave a tip — a figure Professor Blum found as well.

“Some days someone will leave $5; other days, they leave nothing,” Ms. Lemus said.

“Sometimes we get $2 or $3 in a room, and we get very happy,” Ms. Guerrero said. “It makes us feel like someone appreciated us.” But sometimes, several days pass without a tip.

Carmen Cruz, the manager of the four-diamond, 64-room Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa in Sausalito, Calif., said tipping trends in hotels are changing.

“Millennials travel a lot, and they’re not big tippers,” she said. “It’s because they’re independent, and they like to do everything themselves. They’re not looking for those extra services that an older couple may be, like, ‘Here, take my luggage.’”

Contrary to the situation in other hotels, housekeepers are among the most frequently tipped employees at the Casa Madrona, Ms. Cruz said. In addition to cultural background — Americans tend to tip more than European and Asian guests — length of stay is often a predictor of whether a maid will be tipped.

“If it’s a stay of more than a week, 90 percent of the time they’re going to leave a tip for our ladies,” Ms. Cruz said. “If it’s a one-night stay, 90 percent of the time they won’t leave a tip.”

But said she would never push guests, even those who have booked an extended stay, to leave tips for Casa Madrona’s housekeepers.

“We do leave stationery and envelopes in the room for when you want to write a letter, but we don’t want people to feel forced,” she said. “If they want to leave a tip, it should be from the heart.”

Marriott quickly came to that same conclusion after working with “The Envelope Please.” Connie Kim, a Marriott spokeswoman, said the initiative was scrapped within a few months because “it just wasn’t popular.” (An internet outcry, including an article on with the headline “Marriott to hotel guests: Please pay our maids for us,” may have been a contributor.)

But the idea that it is bad form for hotels to encourage the tipping of maids ought to be reconsidered, Professor Blum said. In 2016, one of his doctoral students conducted an experiment similar to “The Envelope Please” at a hotel in Lubbock, Tex. In addition to a larger percentage of tippers, the envelopes left in rooms, which made mention of the hotel association guidelines, yielded a flurry of thank yous from guests.

“People would write things like, ‘Thanks for your hard work,’” Professor Blum said. “You got the sense that knowing the guidelines was helpful to them.”

Still, that is not always the case.

Michael Lynn, a professor of consumer behavior and marketing at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration who has studied tipping extensively, is well aware of the guidelines.

“Tipping etiquette experts have said for 20 years or more that you should tip hotel maids. But even I don’t do it all the time,” he said. “Half the time I don’t have the proper change in my pocket or I forget.”

Both professors recommended a remedy for such cases, which would also work for business travelers who don’t tip because they are unsure they will be reimbursed without documentation of the cash outlay.

“If hotels really wanted to institutionalize tipping, they could do it through electronic checkouts, or an app, or the TV, with a question like, ‘Would you like to leave a tip for your housekeeper?’” Professor Blum said. “We live in a tipping society. Even sandwich shops do that now. Why shouldn’t hotels do it?”

Original Article Link

‘He Was Masturbating… I Felt Like Crying’: What Housekeepers Endure To Clean Hotel Rooms

Low-wage workers have been fighting sexual harassment for years. The national conversation is finally catching up with them.

Cecilia was working as a minibar attendant at a Chicago hotel when she knocked on the guest’s door and announced herself. The man’s response was quick and unequivocal: “You can come in.”

When she opened the door, “He was at the computer, masturbating,” Cecilia recalled. She was overcome with shock and embarrassment. Judging from the satisfied look on the man’s face, that was the whole idea.

“I felt nasty,” recalled Cecilia, who asked that her last name and the hotel not be identified. “You’d expect that to happen to people in a jail but not in regular work. I felt like crying.”

It wasn’t the only time Cecilia had dealt with extreme forms of sexual harassment in her three decades working in downtown hotels. A male guest once answered her knock by opening the door naked. Just a month and a half ago, a younger colleague confided to Cecilia that a male guest had tried to embrace her while she was in his room. Cecilia escorted the shaken housekeeper to the hotel’s security team to report the incident.

Since the allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein were first revealed last month, more and more women have stepped forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault at work. Their bravery in speaking out has toppled powerful men’s careers in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington. But much less attention has been paid to the rampant harassment in blue-collar workplaces, particularly the hotel industry.

Many of the stories that have hit front pages ― Weinstein, journalist Mark Halperin, comedian Louis C.K. ― center on powerful men who preyed on underlings or colleagues in hotel rooms ― a trend that would surprise no woman who’s ever worked as a housekeeper. If famous A-list actresses must deal with unwanted advances in the privacy of a hotel suite, imagine the vulnerability of an immigrant woman cleaning the room alone, for close to minimum wage, plus tips.

“Frankly, I don’t think much of the public understands what housekeepers go through just to clean these rooms and carry out the work,” said Maria Elena Durazo, a labor leader with the hospitality union Unite Here.

For several years Durazo’s union has advocated for housekeepers to be given handheld, wireless panic buttons that can alert hotel security when a worker feels threatened ― a sign of how dire it views the problem of sexual predation in the hotel industry. After working to negotiate the use of panic buttons in their employer contracts, the union is now lobbying city councils to mandate them through legislation so that all workers have access to them, union and non-union alike.

But, according to Durazo, the panic buttons only go so far in addressing the more fundamental problem: an imbalance of economic power between perpetrators and their victims, especially when the victims are working in or near poverty. “We have to do something to equalize the power so that women really have the ability to speak up, without having to risk their livelihood,” she said. “That goes for whether you’re a housekeeper or a food server or a big-time actor.”

Last year, Unite Here surveyed roughly 500 of its Chicago area members who work in hotels and casinos as housekeepers and servers, many of them Latino and Asian immigrants. The results were disturbing:

– 58 percent of hotel workers and 77 percent of casino workers said they had been sexually harassed by a guest.

– 49 percent of hotel workers said they had experienced a guest answering the door naked or otherwise exposing himself.

– 56 percent of hotel workers who’d reported harassment said they didn’t feel safe on the job afterward.

– 65 percent of casino cocktail servers said a guest had touched or tried to touch them without permission.

– Nearly 40 percent of casino workers said they’d been pressured for a date or a sexual favor.